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Fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Russia and Ukraine indicate the possibility of talks

Smoke and fire erupt in bombing near Kyiv as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine on February 26, 2022. REUTERS / Gleb Garanich

February 26, 2022

by Maria Tsvetkova

KYIV (Reuters) – Russian and Ukrainian forces clashed on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital on Saturday as authorities urged civilians to help defend the city against the advance of Russian troops in Europe’s worst security crisis in decades.

Heavy, frequent artillery fire and intense gunfire, apparently some distance from the city center, were heard in Kyiv early in the morning, a Reuters witness said. The Ukrainian military says Russian troops attacked a military base on the main street of Kyiv but the attack was launched.

But even as the fighting escalated, the Russian and Ukrainian governments signaled the opening of negotiations, which gave the first glittering hope for diplomacy since Russian President Vladimir Putin began the invasion on Thursday.

“Ukraine’s fate is being decided now,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday in a video broadcast on his Telegram channel. “Tonight they will launch an attack. We must all understand what awaits us. We have to stand tonight. “

The air force announced heavy fighting near the Vasylkiv air base southwest of the capital, which it said had been attacked by Russian paratroopers.

It also said one of its fighters had shot down a Russian cargo plane. Reuters could not independently confirm the allegations.

Kyiv residents were told by the Defense Ministry to make petrol bombs to repel the invading army, as witnesses said they had heard artillery fire and intense gunfire from the western part of the city.

Some families were sheltered after Russian missiles attacked Kyiv on Thursday night. Others desperately tried to get on crowded trains heading west, some of the hundreds of thousands who have left their homes to find safety, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Putin launched a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south on Thursday, in an attack that threatened to change European order after the Cold War.

“I call once again on the Ukrainian military: do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” Putin told a Russian security television conference. council on Friday. “Take power into your own hands.”

Putin has cited the need to “disarm” Ukraine’s leadership as one of his main reasons for the invasion, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss the allegations as baseless propaganda.

Ukrainians voted by an overwhelming majority in the fall of the Soviet Union, and Kyiv hopes to join NATO and the EU – hopes that anger Moscow.

Putin says Ukraine, a democracy of 44 million people, is an illegal state cut off from Russia, a view that Ukrainians see as aimed at destroying more than a thousand-year history.

“READY TO SPEAK”

Western nations have announced a number of sanctions against Russia, including blacklisting their banks and banning technology exports. But so far they have stopped forcing it out of the SWIFT system for international bank payments.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov. The European Union and Britain previously froze all of Putin’s and Lavrov’s assets in their territory. Canada took similar steps.

However, a steady increase in economic constraints has not deterred Putin.

Moscow said on Friday it had captured Hostomel Airport northwest of the capital – a possible site for an attack on Kyiv that has been fought over since Russian paratroopers landed there during the first hours of the war.

This could not be confirmed and the Ukrainian authorities reported heavy fighting there.

But in the midst of the chaos of the war came a ray of hope.

A spokesman for Zelenskiy said Ukraine and Russia would consult in the next few hours on the time and place for talks.

The Kremlin said earlier that it had offered to meet in Belarus, the capital of Belarus, after Ukraine declared its readiness to declare itself a neutral state while Ukraine proposed Warsaw as a platform. According to Russia’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, this led to a “pause” in relations.

“Ukraine was and still is ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” Zelenskiy spokesman Sergii Nykyforov said in a Facebook post. “We accept the proposal of the President of Russia.

But State Department spokesman Ned Price said Russia’s offer was an attempt at diplomacy “at gunpoint” and that Putin’s army would have to stop bombing Ukraine if it was serious about negotiations.

INSULATION

At the UN, Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution that lamented the invasion while China was bypassed, which Western nations saw as proof of Russia’s isolation. The United Arab Emirates and India also abstained, with the other 11 members voting in favor.

A picture of what was happening on the ground across Ukraine – Europe’s largest country after Russia – could be seen.

Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter that there had been heavy fighting with fatalities at the entrance to the eastern cities of Chernihiv and Melitopol, as well as Hostomel.

Witnesses said they heard explosions and gunfire near the airport in Kharkiv, another city in Ukraine, close to the Russian border. The Ukrainian army said Russian troops had been stopped at a heavy loss near the northeastern city of Konotop.

There have also been reports of fighting near an air base about 30 km (20 miles) southwest of Kyiv.

The British Ministry of Defense said that Russian armored forces had launched a new offensive against the capital after failing to reach Chernihiv.

Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian troops had been killed. Russia did not publish casualties. Zelenskiy said late Thursday that 137 soldiers and civilians had been killed and hundreds wounded.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart and condemned the reported deaths of civilians, including Ukrainian children, in attacks around Kyiv, according to the State Department.

The White House has asked Congress for $ 6.4 billion in security and humanitarian aid for the crisis, officials said.

Airstrikes swept across Kyiv on Friday morning as residents took refuge in subway stations.

Windows were blown out of a 10-storey apartment building near the main airport.

“How can we live through this in our time? “Putin should burn in hell with his whole family,” said Oxana Gulenko, sweeping broken glass from her room.

(Reports by Natalia Zinets and Maria Tsvetkova in Kyiv, Aleksandar Vasovic in Mariupol, Alan Charlish in Medyka, Poland, Fedja Grulovic in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania and Reuters offices; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Robert Birsel; Editing by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard)



Fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Russia and Ukraine indicate the possibility of talks

Source link Fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Russia and Ukraine indicate the possibility of talks

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